There is no better metaphor for the human urge to defy gravity and reach up and take flight than the pole vault. In competition, athletes must set the bar ever higher, and always feel confident about exceeding their target. Pivoting on a series of sequences of leading British pole-vaulter Kate Dennison, susan pui san lok’s Lightness explores the rhythms and psychology of this complex event – its cycles of training and competition, the recycling of past and present to imagine the future. Switching between three separate video screens, the piece follows the nuances of Dennison’s preparations and motivations, in the same way as its shifting angles and camera-perspectives dissect the mechanics of the vault itself. Interspersed with footage of young pole-vault hopefuls in the early stages of training at Lee Valley Athletics Club, Lightness is a meditation on the optimism and confidence that both buoy and sustain the athlete – in an event in which staying up is absolutely paramount.
De la Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea: 30 June – 16 September 2012
Commissioned and curated by Film and Video Umbrella and De La Warr Pavilion as part of 'Everything Flows'. Supported by the Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England.
Thanks to Kate Dennison and coach, Scott Simpson, at Loughborough HiPAC, and to coach, John Mahon, Enfield and Haringey Athletics Club, at Lee Valley Athletics Centre.